Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
“Every moment of every [person’s] life on earth plants something in [their] soul,” wrote Thomas Merton. [“Seeds of Contemplation” from New Seeds of Contemplation. source]
Every moment brings seeds that fall from on high…blow in from neighboring lands…are scattered abundantly…profligately…onto the soil of our bodies and souls.
These seeds are sometimes pleasant…sometimes hard to bear…sometimes we welcome them…sometimes we resist them, but they crack our stony hearts open anyway. They crack us open because it is God who sows them.
“It is God’s love,” Merton continues, “that warms me in the sun and God’s love that sends the cold rain. It is God’s love that feeds me in the bread I eat and God that feeds me also by hunger and fasting. It is the love of God that sends the winter days when I am cold and sick, and the hot summer when I labor and my clothes are full of sweat: but it is God Who breathes on me the light winds off the river and in the breezes out of the wood. [God’s] love spreads the shade of the sycamore over my head and sends the water-boy along the edge of the wheat field with a bucket from the spring, while the laborers are resting and the mules stand under the tree.
“It is God’s love that speaks to me in the birds and streams; but also behind the clamor of the city God speaks to me in [God’s] judgments, and all these things are seeds sent to me from [God’s] will.”
Every moment of our life seeds of God’s love…God’s truth…God’s mercy and God’s justice are scattered on our bodies and our souls…longing to take root.
There is an alternate Old Testament reading for today, that says much the same thing. It comes from the prophetic and poetic voice of Second Isaiah,
“As the rain or snow drops from heaven
and returns not there,
but soaks the earth
and makes it bring forth vegetation,
yielding seed for sowing and bread for eating,
so is the word that issues from My mouth:
it does not come back to me unfulfilled,
but performs what I purpose,
Achieves what I sent it to do.(Isaiah 55:10-11, Jewish Study Bible translation)
Every moment of our lives plants something in our soul. Food and fasting…summer and winter…sweaty heat and sickly cold…the lilt of birdsong and din of crowds…is all seed sown from God’s hand…and it will not return to God empty…God’s purpose will be fulfilled…this rain of seeds will give life…they will bring forth increase… thirty…sixty…a hundred fold.
What seeds are being planted in you? Which ones are taking root? Which ones are springing up only to wither? Which ones are struggling to survive?
Because, let’s be honest…not every square inch of us is good soil.
Even in very the best of times, we are always a mixture of these soils: We have our hard, packed down, well-worn paths—the routines and cherished beliefs we know well…the patterned ways of living that bring comfort to us, but undoubtedly cause pain to others—it’s hard for seeds of justice to sprout there.
We have our rocky, barren places of pain and doubt…places where we hide, where we deny, where we bury our heads in the sand…pretending we don’t need anyone or anything else…The seeds of love have little chance there.
We have our thorny briars of confusion and temptation…where things that are partly good—good for me but not always for thee—compete for our attention…where we bargain for and hoard things we believe we need, and are afraid others will somehow get more…The Seeds of mercy are often choked here.
And we have good soil too…but, good soil doesn’t simply exists…It becomes good by generations of seeds, sprouting, growing, drawing nutrients from it, and then dying and turning to compost…and of animals grazing off it and fertilizing it. The seeds of Gods that fall on us will certainly grow…and grow abundantly…but seeds require nutrients—and good soil is always giving those away…always giving away its treasure. So good soil needs to be tended or it will become depleted.
“Most of [God’s] seeds perish and are lost,” writes Merton, “because [we] are not prepared to receive them.” They cannot spring up except in what he calls the “good soil of freedom, spontaneity and love.”
How much good soil in is you right now? How are you tending it? This feels like a vital question because these past several months have been hard…and the next several months promise to continue being hard…we remain hopeful, but the rocky, thorny, and hardened places in us are growing…But God never stops sowing seeds…
We need to nurture the good soil in us…we need to prepare to receive the seeds that continually fall on us. How do we do that? Certainly the Way of Love provides good tools: Turn, learn, pray, worship, bless…And it seems to me that this question is also related to the one I posed a couple weeks ago…How do we know the will of God. By preparing ourselves for specific seeds, we may find ourselves more receptive to them.
Merton again: “whatever is demanded by truth, by justice, by mercy or by love must surely be taken to be willed by God. To consent to God’s will is, then to consent to be true, or to speak truth, or at least to seek it.” Easier said than done, no doubt…but consenting to the truth…committing to speaking truth…and listening to…welcoming the truth of another—no matter how uncomfortable—is a way of tilling our soil…preparing our souls to receive the seeds of justice.
So when people ask: what are you doing off at church…going to that courageous conversation…marching in that protest…you can respond…I’m preparing my soul…I’m tilling the soil so I can receive the seeds of love, and compassion…the seeds of justice and mercy…so that they can grow in me. So that God’s will be done. And God will give the growth…thirty…sixty…a hundredfold…
“Every moment of [your] life on earth plants something in [your] soul.”
Let us be preparing so that we can receive and nurture the seeds the of love and hope and faith and justice that God is sowing.